The football team that went into halftime on Saturday certainly didn’t look like the squad that won the last six games of the previous season. The team that entered the second half did. Hosting Colby (0-1) in the season opener, the Ephs used stifling defense and four second-half touchdowns to blank the Mules, 28-0.
It was all quiet on Weston Field in the first half. Even though the Ephs moved the ball well, they surrendered potential scoring opportunities, turning the ball over on downs twice, fumbling away possession once and throwing an interception once.
“In the first half we moved the ball consistently, but didn’t make any big plays,” Head Coach Mike Whalen said. “We had a couple of chances in the red zone but made some costly mistakes that ended the drives without putting points on the board. It was more about us stopping ourselves, then Colby’s ability to stop us.”
The Mules, for their part, were even less effective offensively, going three-and-out on their first three possessions of the game. A short-lived 18-yard drive represented Colby’s most impressive effort of the first half.
Even though Colby’s offense never mobilized, a fumbled punt return from the Ephs with 2:38 left in the half gave the hapless Mules a chance to take the lead. However, the Williams defense went on lock-down, holding Colby to a three-yard run and forcing two incomplete passes. Colby’s field goal attempt from 31 yards missed short, effectively dashing the Mules’ hopes for a first-half score.
“After we muffed the punt and turned the ball over to Colby deep in our own territory, our defense stepped up big and kept them off the scoreboard,” Whalen said. “Had Colby scored on that possession, it might have been a different outcome.”
Going into the break, the men knew they had averted a game-changing reversal, but were buoyed by the fact that they had moved the ball better than Colby. “We were confident at halftime that we were going to put points on the board in the second half,” co-captain Brian Morrissey ’09 said. “The first game is always tough for an offense especially with first time starters at a few positions. You can try to simulate live game play in practice but it’s not like the real thing. Once we got the jitters out of the way and relaxed a little bit, things opened up for us and we played a solid second half.”
That confidence showed through in the second half, as the Ephs minimized mistakes and utilized rock solid defense to set up scoring opportunities. Elijah Weeks ’08 got the ball rolling by taking the kickoff 54 yards before finally being brought down. Although Williams failed to score on the ensuing drive, the Eph defense forced another Colby three-and-out and brought the offense back on the field.
In the 57-yard drive that followed, quarterback Pat Moffitt ’11 hit Morrissey and Nick Caro ’10 for gains of 17 and 18 yards, respectively. Caro’s reception brought Williams inside the Colby 10, setting up a five-yard swing pass to Morrissey for the score, thereby breaking the offensive drought that had lasted for the first 40 minutes of the game.
Another strong defensive series put the ball back in Moffitt’s hands, who proceeded to lead the Ephs 99 yards downfield for another score. Three passes was all it took, as Moffitt hit Stew Buck ’09 for 39 yards, Brian Egan ’09 for six yards and Caro on a 54-yard touchdown pass. Caro finished the game with nine receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.
In his first regular season start Moffitt completed 19 of 28 passes for 244 yards and two scores. “Moffitt really stepped up and played great,” Morrissey said. “He was confident and poised and threw the ball well. We lacked the big play in the first half but Nick Caro and Stew Buck came up huge with some great plays, especially on the 99 yard touchdown drive.”
In the fourth quarter, just when it looked as if the Mules were putting an offensive drive together, E.J. Toppin ’10 intercepted a pass from Colby quarterback Patrick Burns and ran it 18 yards to the Colby 14. Morrissey capitalized on the good field position, punching in his second touchdown of the day on a four yard run.
Just a few minutes later, the Ephs scored again after getting the ball back off of another interception, this one from Sean Milano ’09. Matthew Coyne ’12 – in at quarterback with the game all but over – hit Tommy Tysse ’11 on a 64-yard touchdown pass with 1:29 left on the clock.
In total, Williams chalked up 426 yards of offense, 308 passing and 118 rushing. Morrissey finished the game with two touchdowns and 116 yards on the ground on 35 carries.
True to character, Morrissey was quick to praise his teammates and even quicker to criticize himself. “Offensively, as a unit, we played well enough to win but we know that we still have a lot of work to do to reach our potential, he said. “Colby had a physical defense and they were good test for us to start the season. The offensive line played well; they didn’t give up any sacks, gave Moffitt some time to throw and opened up some pretty nice holes. I have to do a better job of reading those blocks and making people miss at the second level.”
The real standouts of the game were the Eph defenders. They held the Mules to only 133 total yards on the game, with just 29 of those yards coming from their passing game. Tim Kiely ’11 led the squad with eight tackles (five solo). Charlie Birns ’09 recorded four solo tackles and a sack
Next up for Williams is perennial powerhouse Trinity on Weston Field. Kickoff is set for 1:30.